Growing up in a small country community, Natalie Medhurst is the first to admit her rise to elite level sport came as a surprise.
- Medhurst represented Australia as Diamond #144 on 86 occasions
- She is remembered for her laid-back on-court style
- Netball Australia CEO Marne Fechner has thanked Medhurst for her service to the sport
Last week, the former Diamond, Commonwealth Games gold medallist and multi-time World Cup player announced her retirement from a professional netball career spanning 17 years.
The third-most-capped national league player took to the court 235 times and scored 4,415 goals across Commonwealth Bank Trophy, ANZ Championship and Suncorp Super Netball competitions.
Medhurst, who was born in Melbourne, returned home to finish her career with the Collingwood Magpies in her native Victoria.
Grateful for family support
When the 178 centimetres goal shooter was just three, her family packed up and moved to the small south-east South Australian township of Millicent, where she became involved in local country sport.
“My parents ran the Somerset Hotel in Millicent so we also lived there (at the hotel). It was awesome, we loved it as kids, it was different home compared to most and my parents were incredibly busy,” Medhurst said.
She said the family’s commitment to supporting her in local sports such as Little Athletics and basketball eventually turned to taking return road trips to Adelaide for state team trials in netball.
“Dad was heavily involved in the footy club, and footy and netball go hand in hand so that’s really where everything started and it took off from there,” she said.
Career exceeded dreams
Medhurst began her professional career in 2004 with the Adelaide Thunderbirds, before heading to the Queensland Firebirds in 2010, followed by stints with West Coast Fever and the Collingwood Magpies.
The Thunderbirds club champion and two-time winner of the Tanya Denver medal and the Adelaide Advertiser player of the year (2006 and 2007) came as highlights in the early days, but it was in 2007 when she first wore the green and gold as Diamond #144.
Medhurst represented Australia with the Diamonds on 86 occasions and went on to win three Netball World Cup gold medals, one Commonwealth Games gold medal, one Commonwealth Games silver medal and six Constellation Cup titles.
Throughout her Diamonds career, she scored 1,166 goals for Australia and captained the Diamonds on one occasion.
Cool under pressure
Reflecting on her rise in the sport and time at the top, she said her competitive streak married well with a naturally laid-back style on court.
“I was very chilled out on court, I think some people confused that and thought I was lazy … but I’ve always loved the pressure — that’s probably why I’m a shooter.”
“Competing was the best thing; game day and those big games … are something I’m really going to miss.”
She said she was most proud of seeing how far the sport had come, with a clearer pathway for young athletes looking to make it to the top.
” … But a thing that helped me a lot was that I played a lot of sports — I wasn’t fixated on netball at a young age.”
And for the next generation of country kids throwing the ball around an asphalt court, Medhurst has this to say: “Realise it is incredibly hard work; it takes a lot of dedication — and from parents too. So for the kids, make sure you thank your parents.”
Young players follow footsteps
Donna Denton, who is a grade coach with the Millicent Saints, said Medhurst had inspired a new generation of young players.
She said the township of Millicent still claimed Medhurst as one of their own.
“Obviously there’s a keen interest in our town following her,” Denton said.
Netball Australia chief executive Marne Fechner thanked Medhurst for her service to the sport.
“Nat has made an enormous contribution to Netball in Australia, both on and off the court, and we congratulate her on an incredible career,” she said.